A recent entry to the health and nutrition blog at Time reports that a new study has found that people who drank diet soda gained nearly 3 times the amount of belly fat as those who didn’t drink it. The study followed 749 people, age 65 and up, for nine years.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, controlled for contributing factors (diabetes, smoking, exercise), but still found that participants who drank diet soda daily gained an average of 3.2 inches in waist circumference, while people who didn’t, only gained an average of 0.8 inches. Belly fat is considered to be particularly risky because it increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, inflammation, and Type 2 diabetes.
Researchers are postulating that artificial sweeteners, such as those in diet sodas, “confuse” the body by short-circuiting the body’s natural instinct that sweet foods are satisfying. Artificial sweeteners may lead to additional weight gain as they cause cravings for sweeter and sweeter foods.
Lead researcher, Dr. Helen Hazuda, explains, “Regular sugar has caloric consequences…. Your body is used to knowing that a sweet taste means you are ingesting energy in the form of calories that, if you don’t burn them off, is going to convert to fat.”
The study reported that people who were already overweight tended to gain the most.
Other researchers suggest that the mechanism may be related to the ways that artificial sweeteners change the gut bacteria.
A study this month published in Nature called for a reassessment of mass use of non-caloric artificial sweeteners, claiming that their results demonstrate that consumption of commonly used artificial sweeteners led to development of glucose intolerance in mice because the sweeteners induced compositional and functional changes to gut bacteria.
They claim to have identified microbial metabolic pathways that were altered by the non-caloric artificial sweeteners and that are linked to disease in the mice and in humans.
The Calorie Control Council, an association that represents the reduced-calorie food and beverage industry questions Hazuda’s findings, maintaining that reduced-calorie food choices can be a valuable aid in controlling weight gain.
Turn your health around with information from this special report: Read Now.